Originally, it was scheduled to open in March 2020, and it was delayed for at least a whole year. It’s just a lot of stuff to deal with. I left Tres Gatos in November 2019, thinking I was going to start January 2020 for Nautilus – taking two months off, spending time with my family, situating my personal life. All of a sudden it got delayed and then COVID really hit February and March. The next thing you know, it was 16 months from one chef position to another.
What have you been doing during these months of limbo?
I would go to Nantucket and work at the Nautilus there and learn the systems, learn the recipes, basically see their style and way of thinking so we could make sure we got it all completed down here, so this would be transparent. It’s still Nautilus, even if it’s not in Nantucket, with the same crab fried rice and the same pork buns.
How has the pandemic affected you mentally?
There were times when I was ready to go to work, and it kept getting delayed. I was traveling back and forth to Nantucket in the summer three to four days a week, and every two weeks my family would come with me and stay with our chef owner Liam. [Mackey]. We’re pretty much a family at this point, and we share a home in Boston together. When he is standing, all his offspring is also standing. He also has a 4 year old boy and a 1 year old girl. But it gave us, mentally, a lot of lead to make sure we got off on the best possible footing.
How would you describe the style of the restaurant?
It is an Asian tapas style restaurant with a seafood focus. The food is divided into small plates, large plates and feasts. There are a lot of Asian influences. Liam has spent a lot of time across Asia; I have spent the majority of the past five years making tapas. It’s a mix of influences from Spain and Asia, but we’ll do the Middle East as well. We do what we want. As long as we know that we want to eat it and that it’s good, then that’s fine on the menu.
The seaport is far from the Jamaican plain. How is it different?
That’s wonderful. It’s day and night between JP and the Seaport, that’s for sure. He has more energy. It doesn’t matter what time of day you go to work or leave work, there are a lot of people out there. Lots of families. Lots of Porsches are on the road. People want to go out and have a good time and spend money, and they want to try things.
We’re a little off the beaten track, but as the Boston World Trade Center starts up, in five years the seaport will look different than it does now, with all the new buildings under construction. .
When I get an Uber there, [the driver] Will tell me how he was a cab driver and got off at Anthony’s Pier 4. The only way to get taxis down there was to offer free tuna sandwiches. They would get free tuna sandwiches to pick people up and bring them back to town! It was a dead zone.
What prompted you to leave Jamaica Plain and Tres Gatos for a new job?
Liam and I have been friends for 15 years now. He had contacted me regarding the potential opening of a Boston Nautilus. We were ready to go years ago. We are friends. He said, âWe’re going to make you a partner here, and we want you to feel like you own and continue the Nautilus brand. When someone presents such an opportunity, especially your best friend, you will say yes. I worked for Liam when I was 20 at the Pearl [on Nantucket]. This is where we met. Then we worked together at Toro. He’s like a big brother to me. I knew he would make sure this restaurant spared no expense.
What will the restaurant scene look like a year from now?
We hope to get back to normal, really. It was extremely difficult. We’re at six days a week and trying to get back to seven. Initially we were able to hire staff, but all of a sudden it was very difficult to get all the cooks we needed and take over the job. work seven days a week.
In a year, we will be talking about dining rooms and private receptions. I think we will come back to what it was before with people who are feeling good. We’re getting used to not wearing a mask at this point, which is good. All our staff are fully vaccinated. We want to go back to the new normal of enjoying and spending time with family and friends, sitting at the bar. This is what we expect from customers and guests. We want them to have a good time with us. We will provide the food, drink and atmosphere.
What would you like guests to know right now?
We want customers to know that we are all understaffed and doing our best. Delivery drivers are understaffed, fishermen are understaffed, meat and fish are more expensive than ever. Everyone is just trying to survive and trying to pretend things are coming back. We’re trying to pretend it’s a year ago and we can pick up where we left off. But the truth is, the world isn’t quite ready to go back to normal just yet. Hopefully they can be patient with the time it takes to find the talent to bring them a top restaurant like the Nautilus.
How to reconcile a new job with a young family?
My wife and I talk about it a lot. We have two children now. I drop my son off at school at 8 a.m. Then it’s “OK, buddy, I’ll see you tomorrow for half an hour.” It’s really difficult in that regard. To move forward, I need the bodies. It’s a struggle.
My wife works days. She sells wine. We have a nanny who takes care of our little girl. Then [my wife] Relieves her, cooks dinner, makes bedtime, bath time, then picks up where she left off. She is treading water. I’m walking on water. We have just opened. That’s what I assure him: it’s not going to be like this forever. I hope one day we will open for lunch and I can work in the middle.
Most of the people in this industry who have no children do not fear the life of working nights. They like to sleep later and go to work later and work at night and go to the bar after work. It’s pretty cool for them, as it is for me. It’s a good time. You have the coolest job in the world: free lunch every day, free late night drinks, hanging out with your friends all day, lots of energy.
Once you have kids it’s, ‘Whoa. I need to concentrate! ‘ I have a whole other job to do. I need to re-engage in being a dad. It’s a huge struggle. You spend so much energy at work. Then you have the high stress of kids who don’t sleep all night, high stress of your kids who basically want to play all the time. It doesn’t sound stressful, but can I just sit on the sofa and drink my coffee? Give dad 30 minutes to go! My solution is that when we open for lunch I can help run lunch and dinner and be home by 7 p.m. reading books to them and tucking them in at night. It would be the best of both worlds for me.
What is your first culinary memory?
My father was very fond of cooking. He would buy a bunch of food, his buddies would come over to his house, and he would cook everything at the same time and we would eat leftovers for the rest of the week. He was making “Marcaurelle” chicken, which is basically ginger chicken fillets. At that age, you’re like, âWow, what is ginger? He was teaching me how to rip chicken up so you got all those nooks and crannies, so it’s super crispy – fried chicken fillets. He made chicken cordon bleu when I was a kid, and stuffed it with ham and cheese and, for who knows why, topped it with BÃ©arnaise sauce.
Where do you eat with your family now?
We love Gray’s Hall. It is next to us. We can go up there. They are great with us. They send us cookies with the kids bill, and it’s a great little wine bar with delicious food. You can’t beat him in South Boston. We also like Hojoko in Fenway, or Chickadee. [Chef-owner] John [daSilva] did a great job. Everyone has been great with our kids, as kind as they can be, patient with the kids. They install us on the terrace.
What did you watch excessively with your kids during your 40s? Whatever?
We would watch a lot of movies in the morning, be it “Homeward Bound” or old movies from my childhood – “101 Dalmations”, “Peter Pan”. We are talking about films from the 1940s. They are timeless.
It was a difficult transition, explaining life before quarantine. âDad used to go to work, and dad is back to work now. These were special moments. Hope we don’t have to do it again, but I will cherish it for what it was.